Second Tuesday

By Morgaine Merch Lleuad

The ritual takes place on the second Tuesday of every month. She appears when the white sun is highest in the lilac sky, dressed in the same trousers and tunic, so shabby and old their colour has faded to no particular colour at all. They could be brown, they could be brownish-grey, they could once have been black. She carries the same bag each time, an old, sack-like shapeless thing, as unmemorable as her clothes, but with one difference: each time, there are three different ribbons tied to the handles. Red, green and black; orange, black and yellow; purple, green, white. They are the only things about her that stand out against the dull rust of the trees.

The bag is huge and heavy, although she is careful not to let it drag over the uneven ground, or bump it on the sharply metallic and stony bones, all that remains of the city. When she reaches the trees, she finds the softest spot, where the cushion of leaves has not yet begun to dissolve, and lays the bag gently on the ground. She opens it.

She takes out a bundle of twigs, tied loosely at one end to form a brush. She places it down. As slowly as a dancer, she peels the bag down as far it will go, and takes out one, two, three cats, each in a harness which hobbles their paws and keep them from escape; unties the ribbons, one at a time, and attaches one to a harness; three ribbons, three harnesses. She pauses, examining each ribbon critically. Sometimes, she changes them, swapping one for another, or rarely, all three are moved between the still, silent animals.
She positions the cats along whatever ley line only she can sense, arranging them precisely, moving one head a quarter of a thumb, one tail, half a hand. They are never all facing the same way. The sun moves across a swathe of lilac by the time she is satisfied.

She takes up the twigbrush, breathes in and out, three times, closes her eyes and bows. Then, standing beside one cat, she stoops and switches it on the back, lightly, three times, before moving onto the next, and the last, the same three switches on each. She stands, bows again, returns the twigs to the ground, each motionless cat to the bag and finally, the twigs, rolling up the sides. She does not remove the ribbons. Slowly, she picks up the bag, careful not to let it drag over the uneven ground, or bump it on the sharply metallic and stony bones, all that remains of the city, and she walks back the way she came.

The cats don’t mind. They know there will be a rat for supper later, or even two. They know why she does this, every second Tuesday of every month (although they are the only living souls who do). They know there will only be three switches, which do not hurt.

There is never a fourth.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

The Dejected

Eyglo

A lonely tree in the dark,
is all that remains
of what I once was.

The white stem is lit up,
though I can’t see the light source
and everything else is covered in darkness. 

A lonely mountain lion screams in despair,
but in my mind it's the wail of a wraith.
It’s the sound of grief, 
and the echo of my darkest desires coming alive,
my sweltering passion becomes one
with the nature of everything around me.

Walking up to the tree is easy, 
but I dare not touch it. 
I see little of the colourful, majestic crown,
but each leave represents a dream that has been implemented,
filled with the hopes of the hopeless,
filled with the lust of the spiritless,
filled with the tears of those with stark desires, 
but with holes in their hearts. 

And I am the wraith. 

The mountain lion cries again,
the sound is hardly audible,
still it pushes the dim thoughts away
and they vanish into the surrounding darkness,
darkness that's all inside me,
and I brave the world and touch the stem of the tree.

I feel how my heart refills, 
with hopeless dreams and inexplicable joy,
I see your face before me,
I hear your voice in the cries of the mountain lion,
a soft calming whisper this time,
and you tell me that you were never out of reach,
never far away,
never gone,
but always right there in my heart,
slowly swaying to the music of my life,
to the melody of my sorrows and of my victories,
and now I have this tree to show for it,
a tree surrounded by the comforting darkness,
winter’s harness. 

I cry out like the mountain lion
when I feel your hand touching mine,
reaching out from inside the stem, 
pulling me close.

And I will never be liberated from this embrace,
nor do I yearn for freedom.
It’s energising, 
being caressed by my own forsaken ardor.

Spark by MichaelMarshall Smith

Spark by MichaelMarshall Smith

Copyright © Eyglo 2016

The Painter

Morgaine Merch Lleuad

He isn’t sure about the colours: they are in the far reaches of the palette he uses on a day-to-day basis, and rarely in that combination. But if he can’t dictate the sky, who can? He reaches for his brush.

He takes the gold from a statue of Amun-Ra in the British Museum, careful not to scrape too deeply, not to reveal the silver beneath. Age has dulled its glister – a good choice: it won’t dominate with shine. For the green, he picks one sage leaf from a jar on the shelf of a sleeping herbalist. But it is silvery and dust, so he replaces it gently and tiptoes away, to Sark, where an ormer shell gives up a fragment of its iridescence. And he sweeps it carefully above the gold.

The smoke from a bonfire of memories wafts grey across with a gesture of his hand, both pale and dark, a suggestion of stars in its specks of winter days. And in a witch’s box of dyes, he takes logwood for its purple. (She looks up as he opens the box: she is the only one to sense him). He drops the purple on, where it drifts down into the smoke.

It is almost complete.

He still isn’t sure about the colours. But the tree bends obligingly, in its own Tai Chi, turning the sky into stained glass.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Copyright © Morgaine Merch Lleuad 2016

The Man Who Didn't Care Enough

by Morgaine Merch Lleuad

He said he’d wait for her in the oldest trees, away from his phones and his family and his busy-ness and his barn conversion with the red door. She didn’t know he’d bring the chair – cold chrome, black leather, squeaking-new – and wondered why he’d carried it all that way, positioned it so he could sit and see his fence posts, still damp with sap from murdered wood; territorial, encroaching. He waited for so long, in the silence of everything hiding: they all waited, she masked in her coat of bark and leaf litter, watching him not seeing, never thinking of the oldest trees and those who lived there, while she waited for much longer, until the chair was empty.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Copyright © Morgaine Merch Lleuad 2016

Morgaine has been (among other things) a medical virologist, a stand-up comedian, a therapist/counsellor, an actor, a musician, a behaviour specialist, and a teacher. She is now a lecturer in Creative Writing, fiction writer and poet.  She has various degrees in Biology, an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing, and Asperger’s Syndrome, which may explain a lot.  Morgaine’s poetry has been published in many magazines, including The Interpreter’s House, Orbis, The Frogmore Papers, Antiphon, Bare Fiction, Iota and Ink Sweat & Tears.

Uninspired

By Kate Chandler

The girl walks, her soul weary. The Village was the only place that she had ever wanted to call home, its people the only ones she had ever wanted to call family, but through several long years she had failed to become accepted there. She had given them everything that she thought that they might want, and they had taken it all from her with a polite smile, never showing the slightest concern as to who she was or what she might be doing there. 

Their continued indifference has made it clear to her that she was neither wanted nor needed there, so she has given up. She has shut her heart to the ones who spurned her, and abandoned the village. 

There is no going back. 

She tells herself that there was nothing more that she could have done, and yet she cannot make herself believe it. If she had just held on, had spent a little more time there trying to find the secret ingredient that was needed to make them accept her enough to invite her to become one of them, to become a part of The Village, perhaps she could have had everything that she had dreamed of, instead of...

Trying to let go of her failed vision hurts her more than the rejection that has led to it. She knows that she must keep moving — to shake off the feeling of failure, to find a new home, a new purpose — but she can see no inviting path in any direction away from that which her heart had most longed for, away from that which she has been denied. She plods along wherever her feet will take her, not seeing a thing around her; the darkness that has settled in her heart blinding her to all. 

But one day she sees The Tree. The more she looks, the more it glows through the gloom. Its trunk seeming to pulse with light to the rhythm of her own heart. Its branches wave in the breeze as if beckoning her, and although she is far away from it she can hear its leaves whispering to her.

Come to me, girl, I offer you peace

Come to me, girl, and find your release.

Come to me, girl, just follow my song,

Come closer, I’ll show you just where you belong.

She moves towards it. 

The Magician looks on and shakes his head. He cannot just stand by and let this happen. He must arrange an intervention. He can see how difficult it is going to be to get through to her, but he must try. It is the least that he can do. He ponders his first move. 

The girl feels as if she doesn’t belong, but only because she was looking for a sense of belonging in the wrong place, striving to fit in with the wrong people. She only needs to find the right tribe and she will fit in effortlessly, her role in the community obvious, their loyalty and affection towards her assured with a shared vision and purpose...

The Magician summons up a team of geese, and sends them flying over the girl’s head in a V-formation, honking to each other all the way. 

The girl doesn’t see them. 

The Magician thinks again. The girl has suffered from trying to be something other than what she is in order to fit in with others. The more she hides her real self, the more frustrated and bitter she becomes when her sacrifice does not result in acceptance from others. She has shrunk and grown hard as a way of protecting what is left of her. If she could just realise the beauty that that will follow if she has the courage to open herself up and express all that she is…

The Magician decides to grow an array of beautifully coloured flowers at her feet. Some tall and striking, others tiny and delicate, they bloom with each footfall, unfurling their subtle intricacy and delicate scent to her. 

The girl remains oblivious.

The Magician strokes his chin. Perhaps, he thinks, he needs to remind her that everything in life is transitory, that this period of struggle that she is currently suffering through will be over soon enough. If she can just ride out the chaos and disappointment for a little while, it will eventually ease, ushering in a new phase of tranquility and contentment...

The Magician springs up a river beside the path that she walks. It morphs on occasion from its gently flowing state: as it meets and negotiates obstacles in its path, eddies, rapids, and small waterfalls appear then disappear. 

The girl proceeds alongside it, unawares, her eyes set only on The Tree.

The girl’s weary gait and forlorn expression makes the Magician sad. He has made the world to be a playground, and life is for the playing. There is nothing that should be taken so seriously as to make a heart so dark and heavy as hers... 

He sends out small forest animals to her, and they play and dance at her feet. Butterflies and dragonflies chase each other around her head. Birds whistle and warble in the trees while squirrels chirrup away in conversation with each other. 

The girl does not notice them.

The Magician starts to worry. Nothing he has conjured so far seems able to avert her attention from the lure of that tree. Maybe it is its glow that captivates her so. Perhaps if he can help her to see that maintaining a lightness in her own heart will enable any source of light to be reflected from it back out into the world, illuminating the darkness around her wherever she goes...

The Magician makes the moon grow bigger and brighter than it has ever been.

The girl is blind to it, and all the light that reaches her continues to be swallowed up in the black hole that her heart has become. She continues onward, her hunger unsatiated.

The Magician becomes desperate. It seems that the girl is not open to receiving any kind of coded message. Deciding that a more direct approach is needed, he creates an angel and instructs it to hold the girl’s hand and gently counsel her. 

The angel swoops down to the girl, falls in step alongside her, takes her hand and starts murmuring to her in a reassuring manner. It suggests to her that if she would only stop walking for a while, if she could just rest and be still enough to allow the pain and anger and helplessness to fill her up it would in time spill out, unburdening her, and giving her the space needed to let the magic of the world back into her heart again. 

The girl does not see, hear, nor feel the angel’s presence. 

The Magician is out of tricks. In one last act of love, he stands before the girl and spreads out his arms to enfold her in his embrace, intending to directly transplant some of his magic to her via the power of his touch.

The girl walks right through The Magician, her darkness so profound that it transforms him into cold, dead stone in its wake.

The angel vanishes from her side. 

The moon shrinks and dims, before being blocked out entirely by an immense funnel of black clouds collecting overhead. 

The animals retreat and take shelter in their burrows and nests. 

The flowers turn inwards and wilt. 

The sky lets loose a torrent of rain, filling the river so that it becomes swollen and raging. 

A strong wind whips up and blows at the girl’s back, hastening her journey to her destination. 

Moles dig frantically, turning the earth around The Tree into a giant mound that her feet climb unawares. As she reaches its trunk, vines stretch down to greet her, form into a noose and tighten around her neck. 

The river bursts its banks. It floods the land, collapsing the molehill from under her feet. 

The girl hangs, and the world falls dark and silent.

 

Spark by Eyglo

Spark by Eyglo

Copyright © Kate Chandler 2015

Killer's Sanctum

By Eyglo

Three years had gone by without an incident. Now I was there again.

The man by the counter was wearing his red, checkered shorts. The shorts looked like they were at least a size too small. It made him look strange, but otherwise he looked like you’d expect from someone who worked in that kind of establishment. He had long dark hair, wore a black t-shirt with some odd logo on it I didn’t recognize, and he had a tattoo of an anchor on his right upper arm.

I stopped in the doorway, not quite sure what to do with myself. There was a familiar looking woman sitting by the window, staring out over the sea. She looked a bit lost, but I’d been there often enough not to be surprised by that.

I walked up to the counter, ordered deep-fried shrimps with the special sauce and a beer. The guy nodded his head, threw a dishcloth over his shoulder and exited through a door behind him.

When he came out, just a few seconds later, he pointed towards the beer tab. I nodded and he picked a glass from a shelf beside him, filled it and placed it on a coaster in front of me.

I handed him a bill and he quickly pushed the sum of my order in the old fashioned cash register.

“It’ll be just a moment,” he said placing my exchange on the table beside my glass. I took a large sip of the beer and turned around in my chair. There was a man standing out on the patio in front of the place. He was watching the sea.

People watch the sea for different reasons, but most do it because they need to have a word with the universe and somehow it doesn’t seem to count properly if the ocean isn’t there to hear you out. You need not say a word for it to listen, of course, and afterwards you magically feel a little better.

That patio seemed ideal for that purpose, though I had always been a bit too preoccupied when I came here to notice. This time, however, I was calmer than before and was able to pay more attention to the details.

It didn’t take long before the shrimps appeared in front of me. I thought about moving seats, so that I could have a view of the ocean, but I wasn’t ready for that conversation yet.

Instead I sat there alone, munching on my food, one shrimp at a time, dipping in every bite. When I was finished I pushed my plate away and ordered another beer. The clerk tabbed me another and took my old glass.

“I’ve seen you here before,” he said simply.

“Twice,” I said. “You gave me a free drink the first time around. I was thankful for that.”

“Twice, huh? Do you want to talk?” he asked.

I shrugged my shoulders and turned in my chair again. Then I turned back and nodded my head towards her. “What’s her story?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “She hasn't said much”.

“First timer?” I asked.

“It’s complicated,” the man said.

I took my beer and moved to the counter by the window. I sat two chairs away from the woman, who was still staring at the sea and didn't seem to notice me. There was some sort of cocktail in front of her.

It looked untouched.

I watched her for a while. She had an off-white dress that looked like it was from the sixties. Her shoes matched perfectly and her hair was big in the back and she wore a ribbon, in the same material as her dress, to hold it up. For an instant the thought occurred to me that she had been sitting there since that look was in style. That she was waiting for someone who never showed up and her dress had been innocently white, once upon a time.

Now there was a big, brown stain on the hem of the skirt.

I shook my head to rid me off the macabre thoughts and I turned my attention to the sea. It was calm, a seagull was hovering over the patio, just above the man who was still standing out there. The man was wearing a striped suit, it was a lean fit.

I found myself staring at the woman who paid me no heed. I wanted to talk to her, but she seemed caught up in her own thoughts and I didn’t want to disturb her. So I started focusing on the sea and what was out there.

It was she who initiated it. She leaned over and touched my arm and I instinctively withdrew hastily not expecting to be touched. “Excuse me,” she said, “you don’t happen to have the time?” she asked politely in a low voice. When she noticed she’d startled me she looked afraid for a moment. She touched her glass, but she didn’t drink from it. “I didn’t mean to startle you,” she said.

I gave her the time, having to fish my phone out of my pocket to find out for myself. I showed it to her and she looked puzzled for a while. Then she nodded her head and stirred her drink.

“Are you waiting for someone?” I asked, knowing perfectly well that this wasn’t the place for that.

She looked at me and for a second I thought I saw a glimmer of joy in her eyes.

“I am, and I’m not,” she said. “I made a deal with someone, he was supposed to be here today. I guess things never turn out the way we want them to, huh?”

“Is this your first time here?” I asked.

She nodded her head and sipped her drink carefully. Her hands were shaking. Then she added: “I think so, though it looks a bit familiar, doesn’t it? But some places just give you the deja-vous, you know?”

I nodded.

“Have you been here before?” she asked.

“Twice,” I said.

She looked at me, nodded and for a moment I thought she was going to say something more but she just stared out at the ocean. When I’d finished my beer I reluctantly stood up, put my hand on her shoulder and squeezed a bit.

She threw her hand up to touch mine, in a small thank you gesture, and that was that.

I went to the counter again. The man was stacking clean glasses on the shelf. I took a matchbox out of a small basket on the counter and put some coins on the table.

“You said it was complicated?” I asked.

“She appears here every year around the same time,” he said and gestured towards her with the glass in his hand. “The man on the porch is always here too, though he never comes inside,” he sighed, “and then they vanish, each to their own I guess.”

I turned around swiftly, a bit startled. “Every year?”

“Every year, spooks, lonesomes, it’s what this place is,” he said.

I turned again and looked at him. He pointed again towards the window, towards the woman. I saw her old fashioned clothes. I saw her sitting there, looking at the sea, stirring her glass calmly.

“Some people have a way of punishing themselves, you know?” he said. I felt a surge of something come over me. It was a familiar feeling, but I pushed the fear back.

“They watch the same ocean every year,” he added, “and that has to mean something. Maybe one day she will manage to go out there, and notice him, maybe even talk to him?”

“I thought this was a one time deal,” I said, looking him in the eyes. They were steel grey and hard.

“Usually, not always, sometimes guilt is a factor,” he said.

I suddenly had the compulsion to look at my hands. Palms up, these were the hands of an old man, not the hands of a thirty year old soldier.

“Three times,” I echoed to myself.

“Every year,” the man standing behind the counter said.

I sighed and shook my head. I placed the matchbox in my pocket and walked out without further ado. I walked to the rail and I watched the ocean. The sun was setting, coloring the sky red and the sea teal and orange.

A small girl came skipping over the patio, impatiently she said: “Dad, lets go, we can’t wait anymore! Lets go!”.

And the man who had been staring over the rail all this time, watching the sun hover over the horizon turned around, smiled and nodded his head.

“I guess so,” he said, he took the girl by the hand and they walked away slowly, as if they had all the time in the world.

I looked inside the restaurant. She was still sitting inside, but for a moment I thought I saw her contours dissolve, as if she was vanishing into thin air. I looked away. Ignoring my thumping heart and the ache in my joints. I looked at the sign one last time, SEA FOOD AND COCKTAILS in such bright happy colors. It was such a magical place.

I thought I would never have to visit again.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Killer's Sanctum © Eygló 2016

Roads

by Kate Chandler

"Oh, I love this song!"

“That’s about the tenth time you’ve said that in an hour.”

"Well I love good music. And you have great taste in it."

Tom smiled bashfully. In truth he had compiled the playlist solely to please Chloe, but she didn’t need to know that. He took a long glance over at her as she sang along to the song, and thought—not for the first time that day—about how one person can totally change the colour of your world, and about how lucky he was to have that person accompanying him this time on the semi-regular drive from Vancouver up to Whistler that he’d been doing since he left university the summer before.

As he was thinking these thoughts, he noticed a car parked in a layover off to the left, and a man standing next to it facing the road. On closer inspection, Tom saw that the man was holding a camera up to his eye, and he grinned to himself at the thought of his car driving into frame and photobombing the man’s picture. He set to wondering whether that picture would make it into any photo collection and, if so, whether anyone he knew—either now or in the past or future—would ever see it, never realising that it was him in the car, and what a special moment in his life the photographer had just captured. The photographer himself certainly wouldn’t have, and so would probably delete it. 

Tom often got caught up wondering about stuff like this, about the vast web of chance and happenstance that surrounds and connects us all unawares. He knew from long experience that it didn’t do to let yourself go too far down the rabbit holes of connections and potentialities, though, lest you never return from them in order to take notice of the surface of things, which was where the real enjoyment was at. Especially in moments like these.

"You want to stop off at Shannon Falls?" he asked.

"Why not," Chloe said. "Do the whole tourist thing. Haven’t been there for years. Have you?"

"I went for a hike up there not long ago, actually, to the top of the falls."

"I didn’t even realise that there was a trail that went up there."

"Sure there is. Stunning views. Maybe we could go together one day."

"Maybe we could," she smiled, giving him a look that made his heart leap.

He parked the car in the lot of the Provincial Park and, chatting idly, they strolled along the small trail beside the river to the viewpoint. When they got there a man had a camera set up on a tripod to take a photograph of the falls. They stood to one side of him, waiting for him to finish, but he shook his head and gestured for them to go ahead, so they walked right up to the barrier and gazed up at the waterfall. It thundered down at full flow from the Spring snow melt and recent rain, and Chloe commented on how it was really quite exhilarating to be able to get so close to the power of nature and how she didn’t seem to do it enough these days. Tom took the chance to further push the idea of a hike together in the future so she could see how great it felt to look down upon the falls from the top. By the time they got back to the car, they had agreed on a weekend to do so and Tom was feeling the most positive he had in months.


Further up the highway, he decided to take her to a little shack of a bar he knew for some appies and a beer. It was right on the river front near where it emptied out into Howe Sound, and was one of his favourite spots in the whole Sea-to-Sky area. Though he had kept it a secret getaway for himself for years, something told him that Chloe was going to be a special enough part of his life to make an exception for her. She seemed to love the place as much as he did, and they spent a happy hour there shooting the breeze and gazing out over the swollen Squamish river to the prettily frosted Tantalus mountains on the other side. 

Chloe went to stand on the bank of the river to scan the sky for eagles while he stayed at their table finishing up his beer. As he looked on at her appreciatively, taking a snapshot in his head of her figure against the backdrop, he could have sworn he heard a camera shutter click. He quickly turned around and caught the eye of the man sat at the table behind him just as he was lowering his camera. He couldn’t be completely sure but he looked like the man with the tripod and camera that they had seen at Shannon Falls. Tom smiled wanly, just in case, but the man stared back at him with a blank expression and, feeling awkward, Tom quickly broke eye-contact. When he glanced back moments later, the man had his head in his phone, busily texting or playing a game, and by the time Tom had looked at his watch to see how they were doing for time, flagged down a waitress and ordered two coffees, the man had gone.

After their coffees, Tom and Chloe took a walk down the path alongside the river and watched as some paddle boarders navigated the strong current. Chloe laughed as Tom had a little rant about what a ridiculous sport it was and how people should just figure out if they wanted to kayak or windsurf, and as she did so she caught his eye and held it and he knew that this was the moment he should kiss her. He smiled, tilted his head ever so slightly and moved towards her, but seeing a loon touch down on the river over her shoulder he instead found himself babbling “Oh look! A loon! What’s he doing on the river?” 


Chloe turned to look, and the moment broke. She spoke about how she loved loons, especially the sound of them calling to each other in the ocean at dawn throughout winter, but Tom barely heard her so thoroughly was he immersed in mentally enacting a series of violent attacks on his idiotic self. On coming out of this fog of self-recrimination, he happened to look up to the path above them, and saw the man from the bar pointing his camera in their direction and, feeling that something was a little out of sorts with this guy and needing to vent the frustration he’d been feeling at himself, Tom decided to confront him.

He left Chloe where she was and quickly scrambled up the steep bank to where the man had been, but when he got there he had vanished from sight. Rattled, but secretly quite relieved that a confrontation hadn’t occurred, Tom went to collect Chloe from the side of the river and they hopped back into the car and continued their drive up the highway in companionable silence, content to listen to the music and take in the scenery and the feeling of freedom that the open road instilled in them both. 


The deer came out of nowhere, chased onto the highway by some hidden predator. Before he knew what he was doing, he’d swerved the car over to the southbound lane and hit a semi-trailer head-on. It felt as if each bone in his body were being crushed simultaneously by individual vices, but through the pain he managed to open his eyes and look over to Chloe’s seat. She wasn’t in it. He looked through the smashed and mangled windscreen and saw nothing in that direction but pieces of her clothes and a lot of blood. The last thing he saw before passing out was the camera guy standing in the road, with the same blank expression, taking photos of the wreck and the scene of chaos beginning to unfold around him.


The church was packed out for the funeral. Even though he got there early, Tom found himself sitting towards the back with a bunch of Chloe’s colleagues rather than further to the front where he felt he deserved to be. He held several unwelcome pangs of envy back as he heard old friend after close friend after family member eulogising the girl who he had loved but only been allowed to have in his life so briefly. Towards the end of the service, they played Portishead’s Roads—one of Chloe’s favourite songs—and a lump arose in Tom’s throat as he realised that it was one of the last songs that he had put on his playlist for their little road trip, in the hope of eliciting conversation about their favourite sad songs. His eyes began to burn. His whole head seemed too hot. He needed some air. He looked behind him to see how clear a path there was to the exit, and saw the man with the camera taking pictures of the shrine at the altar and the congregation. Then he pointed the camera right at Tom.

Tom looked wildly about him, muttered his excuses and got up, tripping over and accidentally stabbing people’s legs with his crutches in his urgency to get to the back of the church. The camera guy had already gone by the time he got there, but as Tom pushed open the door to the outside he saw the man standing in the section of the graveyard reserved for crematory ashes. Tom went over to him, and saw that they were standing at the plaque where Chloe’s ashes were to be interred. The man’s face was leathery up close, and his expression was still blank, but Tom now saw something very familiar about him. He took a good look into the man’s eyes, and saw that they were his own. The man pressed something into Tom’s hand then disappeared. 

Tom opened his hand, and saw that he was holding a memory card.

Suddenly, Tom was sitting in a pub in Vancouver, drinking with some colleagues, when an old friend approached his table, one arm held out to shake Tom’s hand, the other around Chloe, pushing her forward slightly as he introduced her. Realising he was back at the beginning, Tom exited out of the photo slideshow and ejected the memory card from his computer. With a small sigh, he twiddled the memory card between his fingers for a moment then tossed it into the side drawer in his desk, locking it with the tiny key he kept stashed in the cover of a cushion on his sofa. There was a knock at his study door and Shannon walked in with his afternoon cup of coffee, full of teenaged angst about the new girl at school and how the boy Shannon loved had already taken a liking to her. 

Tom drank his coffee and listened politely, interjecting occasional fatherly platitudes about the nature of love and how things happen for good reason, never once believing a word he uttered, but all too aware that it wasn’t he who needed to continue to believe in the power of hope.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

ROADS copyright © Kate Chandler 2015

The Other Side

By Kate Chandler

Olivia was shattered: a particularly boring day at work had led to an uncharacteristically intense session at Fitness World. As she drove home, flushed and soaked with sweat (she was too self-conscious to shower and change in front of the goddesses who attended her gym), she caught a glimpse of her expression in the rear view mirror. What she saw there was empty of anything but catatonic stupor; there was nobody home.

She was startled enough to let some emotion creep to the surface, which she quickly cancelled out by turning on the radio and singing along to a Bon Jovi tune. She barely knew the song and certainly didn’t like it, but it did the job. She had discovered long ago that you can’t think when you’re singing a song that you are simultaneously learning the words to, and that it’s almost impossible to be blue when you’re belting out a tune at the top of your voice, especially if you are singing the chosen song deliberately out of tune in an attempt to convey your derision of it. Even though she knew there was nobody around to hear her, she didn’t want anyone thinking that she liked Bon Jovi.

As usual, there was no place for her to park outside of her house, so she had to park farther along the street, underneath the cherry blossom trees that were ripe to shed their delicate pink petals all over her recently washed white Toyota. She found it especially irksome when something that gave her great joy, and stirred her soul with its simple beauty, became a nuisance to her by its very nature. She would have much rather had a seagull — that pesky, noisy, evil breed of a bird — crap on the hood of her car than her beloved cherry blossom fall upon it. At least then when she was scrubbing it off she could curse at the culprit with a clear conscience.

She walked along the sidewalk to the entrance to her duplex and checked her mail box. Like anyone, she always hoped to find a letter from a friend or a long-lost relative lurking amid the junk mail, but the chance was very slim given that she hadn’t written a letter to anyone herself in the last five years. She sorted through the mail, keeping anything that looked vaguely interesting and discarding the rest, then made her way into the building.

She had bought herself a ready-made salmon linguine from the market for dinner, and so she put the package in the microwave to heat up. It was only when she came to stir it halfway through heating that she looked at it properly and make the observation that salmon linguine really shouldn’t have bits of bacon and leek in it and look so penne-ish. They had put the meal in the wrong packaging, the fools. It was too late to take it back — being that it was already half-cooked — and it tasted fine, and so she finished cooking it and began to eat it, but it hadn’t been what she’d wanted and she knew that the leeks would give her wind. It didn’t exactly ruin her day, but it didn’t help to make it any better, either.

“Happy birthday, Liv,” she muttered, raising an imaginary wine glass to toast herself with. She dared not open a bottle and fill a real glass, as she knew she wouldn’t be able to stop before the bottle had been finished. Drinking an entire bottle of wine on her own at home just for the sake of it was not a habit that she wanted to return to any time soon.

She took a hot shower, standing under the forceful spray thinking about nothing in particular until her skin started to crinkle. She had intended for it to prepare her for bed, but it actually woke her up instead. As she didn’t want to fill the apartment with the empty noise of reality TV and she wasn’t in the mood to concentrate on anything more challenging, she decided to go through the mail she’d brought in with her to see if there was anything worth looking at.

One quick flip through MEC’s Spring catalogue later, having ascertained that she couldn’t afford any of the gear that she might want therein, she picked up the white envelope lying next in the pile. It looked tatty and wasn’t sealed, and the front just had her first name scrawled upon it in ink, so it had evidently been posted by hand. 

Figuring it was a note from one of her neighbours, she opened the envelope and unfolded the piece of lined notepaper within. On it was a crude but sweet pencil drawing of a guy wearing a pair of green and red checkered trousers and a navy short-sleeved t-shirt, seen from behind seated on a small log amid a field full of wildflowers and mushrooms, staring out at a night sky dominated by the moon surrounded by stars and colourful swirls of light.

Olivia laughed in surprise, recognizing it immediately as a drawing she had given to Kurt, a good friend of hers back when they were teenagers. At the time, something about it had caught his imagination and he’d framed it, named the guy in it “Jake”, and imbued him with all the features and characteristics of his ideal man. She turned the paper over, and saw that on the back was written: “MEET ME AT DAWN. YOU KNOW WHERE.”

She furrowed her brow. She did not know where he could mean. They’d barely spoken in four years, and had drifted apart long before that. She didn’t know what would have possessed him to unearth this ancient treasure and send it to her out of the blue on her birthday, unless he’d just been thinking of her of late and had decided to involve her in a little mysterious adventure such as they’d enjoyed in the days of old before life got in the way.

The rest of the mail forgotten, she wandered through to her living room and fired up her laptop to check Facebook. Kurt wasn’t online, and from the looks of things hadn’t been all day, but his status update — posted that morning — simply said “Nuff Fluff.” Olivia smiled, understanding that it was a message to her, indicating that he wanted to meet her in the park where they used to get drunk and stoned and talk all night, the park where they had seen those two words graffitied at the bottom of a set of steps and puzzled over what they meant, in the summer before they had set off in different directions and everything had changed.

***

They had met under tragic circumstances when they were fourteen. Kurt’s eldest sister had gotten herself involved with the local drug scene and had run away from home after she was implicated in an assault and robbery. He had prayed that she would contact him somehow and let him know that she was safe, but she never did, and though he’d held out hope that this was because she knew that the police were in constant contact with their family and she didn’t want to chance it, in his gut he knew that something bad had befallen her. His suspicion was confirmed when a call came from the police up in Prince Rupert one morning a few weeks later to inform his parents that she and a friend had been found dead in an abandoned building they were squatting. It appeared that they had overdosed on a bad batch of heroin that had been doing the rounds of the northern part of the province.

Not long after he received the news, Olivia’s brother — a star athlete at school — had fallen down a tree well while out snowshoeing in the backcountry with a couple of friends. They hadn’t gone prepared with any gear and the tree well was so deep that they had been unable to pull him out or help him dig for sufficient air, and he’d suffocated before they could get a search and rescue crew to him.

They first became acquainted in the waiting room of the school counsellor one afternoon. At the time, Olivia was still struggling to accept the reality of the loss of her brother, while Kurt was stuck on tormenting himself with the idea that there was something that he could have done to save his sister. The bond made between them was instant and deep. It didn’t hurt that they had a mutual love of the paranormal, and their first year of friendship was filled with repeated attempts to contact their siblings on the other side via means of séances and ghost hunts and good old-fashioned prayers, rituals, incantations and spells.

Their parents believed that this was a morbid obsession, and thought that they were a bad influence on each other and were stopping each other from moving on, but Olivia and Kurt didn’t care. They never got anywhere close to finding what they had hoped to find, but as far as they were concerned the attempts served to help them make it through their respective grieving processes more quickly than they’d expected.

They grew out of their occult practices as they became interested in far more achievable pursuits and ambitions, but they never lost their fascination in the afterlife and their belief in parallel worlds, and would still talk of them during their time alone. They had even made sure that they were in possession of a detailed plan of action as to how one would attempt to contact and communicate with the other in the event of them dying and reaching the other side.

As time went on, Olivia felt the need to live up to her brother’s birthright in some way. Everyone had expected him to grow up to be a professional sportsman, though at the time of his death he hadn’t decided whether soccer or hockey was going to be his focus.  She had always been terrible at sports, but found that she did have a talent for public speaking, and she quickly became the President of the school’s Debating Society, competing and finding success in events nationwide and gaining popularity among her peers.

She developed a keen interest in politics along the way, and began to plan out a career in Local Government for herself. She graduated high school second best in her class and was offered a place at UVic. Victoria, not being too far from home but just far enough to encourage independence, and being home to the Parliament Buildings of British Columbia, was the perfect choice for her.

Kurt, meanwhile, had immersed himself heavily in gaming, and later taught himself to code, finding that he was very gifted at it. Though he never talked of it to Olivia, by the time he was seventeen it was obvious to her that he was involved in hacking or some other kind of crime, due to the large sums of money that he occasionally came into possession of. He used a lot of this money to buy weed and mushrooms (which she happily partook of), and occasionally LSD, mescaline and other psychedelics (which she did not).

He had a small set of friends with whom he enjoyed tripping his balls off, but in general he preferred to experiment by himself, taking copious notes and becoming quite the psychonaut. He kept most of this private, but would always report his major findings and experiences to Olivia.

Kurt was not at all interested in school, doing just enough to graduate. He wasn’t worried about his lack of traditional job prospects: he’d saved plenty of money and his plan was to bum around Europe and indulge in the party scene until that money ran out, then re-evaluate. He and Olivia spent one last summer together, getting completely off their nuts most nights so that it flashed by in a blur, then they had gone in their separate directions. Olivia went to UVic, and Kurt spent two years in Europe, dispatching occasional missives to Olivia to tell her of his various adventures, before moving to Brazil. It was at that point that she got heavily into her studies and work and completely lost track of him.

Five years later he had turned up on the doorstep of the townhouse that she had shared with a couple of work colleagues at the time, having tracked her down via her parents. It turned out that he had travelled around most of South America after his time in Brazil, and then had spent significant periods in Australia, Thailand, India and Alaska. He hadn’t found whatever it was that he was looking for in any of those places, and had grown bored of traveling, so he had returned home.

They had spent a wild couple of months catching up with each other’s lives and then, finding that they had nothing in common anymore except the past, slowly drifted apart again. The time between meetings grew to weeks, then months, and suddenly she realised that he had become somebody that she used to know — just another friend who she only ever heard anything of via social media.

***

Olivia’s alarm clock woke her up shortly before dawn. She rubbed her eyes and got out of bed immediately. She pulled on the clothes that she’d left lying on the chair by her bed, drank a glass of water, and then left the house and headed the few blocks to Douglas Park. It being early in Spring, the air had a chill to it, but felt and smelled wonderful and invigorated her to no end.

As she walked, the birds started up their dawn chorus, and her heart sang along with them. She promised herself that she would get up earlier from now on to appreciate this time of the morning, which had always felt mystical to her. Then she laughed at herself, realising that she’d never likely pull herself out of her usual routine of cozying up under her comfy duvet until it was absolutely necessary to get up.

She arrived at the park and saw a figure sitting on the steps in the centre of the park by the fountain. He seemed to be studying the ground but he looked up, saw her and waved at her. He was dressed in checkered trousers and a navy short-sleeved t-shirt. She laughed, impressed by the level of his attention to detail, and trotted over to him.

When she got up close to him, she reared back.  It wasn’t Kurt.

The man smiled at her. “Please don’t be scared, Liv,” he said.

He stood up, and held his hand out to her by way of greeting.

“I’m Jake. You know me, right?”

Olivia did not shake his hand, but neither did she turn and walk away. There was something comforting about the way he looked at her. She felt good in his presence, felt together in a way she had never before experienced. And she knew that he looked and sounded exactly like Kurt’s “Jake”. He had facial moles in exactly the right places and was even wearing the same aftershave as Kurt had favoured in his ideal man, for Chrissake. Her fear was overruled by her curiosity.

“You had better explain what is happening, and fast, or I’m out of here,” she told him.

“Okay, but will you sit down?”

Olivia perched herself on the edge of the fountain, facing him. He sat back down on the steps.

“The Other Side exists. I’m from there. Kurt is there right now — he finally found a way through, and he has sent me to tell you, because he knew that it would be the only way that he could make you believe him.”

Olivia did not want to ask the next question, but she had to.

“Is he dead?”

“Hell, no!” Jake smiled at her reassuringly. “He’s fine. More than fine. He’ll be here in a minute, don’t you worry. He just wanted to surprise you by sending me first.”

Olivia was bemused. She didn’t know what to think, but she knew how she felt: she felt like she would strangle Kurt when she saw him, for scaring her like this. A few seconds later she was shaking her head and laughing to herself. This was so like him, it’d just been so long since they’d hung out properly that she’d forgotten.

“Are you for real?’ she asked Jake.

“I’m for ideal,” he replied.

She looked at him questioningly. “I’m afraid I’m not quite following you.”

“The world I’m from is a world of ideals. Everything is perfect there, not real.”

Suddenly Kurt lolloped up behind Olivia. She turned and hit him in the chest, then hugged him, and then hit him again. She tried to say something, but found that there were no words available to her.

“See you later,” said Jake.

She turned in his direction just in time to watch him smile and then vanish.

Kurt looked at Olivia and snorted with laughter. “Oh, God, your face!”

He gently pushed her lower jaw back up to stop her mouth from hanging open, then held her by the shoulders and looked her in the eyes until she had gotten over her shock enough to be able to focus her attention on him.

“Walk with me,” he said, proffering his arm.

***

He took her to the edge of the park where a wall separated it from a neighbouring piece of land. Through the holes in a beautifully wrought black metal gate, she saw a large garden with  a natural pond in the centre, the grass around it dotted with wildflowers. He explained to her that he’d recently discovered that the dawn chorus was not just a random selection of birds trying to show themselves off to potential mates, nor were they members of the same flock letting each other know that they’d made it safely through the night and were ready to get up and at a new day.

The secret he’d found was that the dawn chorus is a carefully articulated code, and he had managed to decipher it. It was telling anyone who knew how to listen properly that the shroud that hides the real world from the ideal world, and vice versa, is thin enough to be breached during the time of the chorus being sung. It also tells one how to go about making the necessary breach.

“The real world and ideal world exist alongside each other, all the time. There is no Other Side, per se, rather it’s all the same side — we’re just hidden from each other by this shroud. It’s normally a little too thick for us to see through, and most of us are usually looking at things in the wrong way to be able to see the other world at the times when it is thin enough.”

He turned to face Olivia, to make sure she was concentrating on what he was saying.

“You have to learn to look in a new way, much like an artist does. Look at things as their essence, rather than the physical form they manifest in. Look at them as they are, rather than how you have learned to see them. There are certain places that can help show you this, that can give you a shortcut to learning to see in a different way. This garden is one of them. We need to go inside.”

He gave Olivia a foot up so she could clamber up the wall. When she dropped down the other side, she gasped audibly. She wasn’t seeing the garden as she saw it through the gate. It was as if she’d dropped into a Monet or Van Gogh painting. Kurt vaulted the wall and landed next to her.

“You’re seeing it?” he asked.

She nodded, dumbfounded.

“Keep looking. Or rather, keep letting it just wash over you. Try not to think about what you’re seeing or interpret it in any way. If you can manage that, you’ll start smelling it, too, and feeling it, and then you’ll be perceiving the ideal world as the truth, the same way as you usually perceive the real world as such.”

Olivia did as she was told, and before long she was fully immersed in the ideal world, and blind to the real world. It felt as if she were one person in a crowd of millions singing along to a song at a rock concert, completely lost in the ultimate harmony, the moment lasting for eternity. She felt both individual and part of the whole at the same time, everything that has been or would be in existence being perceived by her all at once. She was there, Kurt was there, Jake was there, her brother was there, both Kurt’s sisters, Olivia’s parents, her grandparents, all her ancestors and descendants. There was no place to be other than where they all were, and no time other than the moment they were all inhabiting.

Gradually she noticed herself standing back in the walled garden, her perception fine-tuning itself back to the real world. The flowers and pond regained their edges, their finer features, their individual differences. She began to feel the chill of the air, smell its fragrance. She heard the dawn chorus breaking up, the birds starting to go about their individual tasks for the day. She felt Kurt’s hand in hers, became aware that he was talking to her.

“…tell you as soon as I found out, but I needed to bring a bit of mystique back to your life first, get your head into the right mindset. Then I remembered that your birthday was coming up and that I could give you the ideal gift – literally. So, happy birthday, Liv!”

She leaned into him, smiling broadly. She knew that the experience was coming to an end, but that it would be experienced time and again now that she had learned that the way to reach the other side was to stop wasting time yearning and searching for something that wasn’t there, and start paying the kind of attention needed to see what was and always would be right in front of her.

Spark by Eyglo

THE OTHER SIDE copyright © Kate Chandler 2015

The Nameless Girl

By Eygló

She didn’t know what would greet her on the other side of the portal that she knew would be at the top of the stairs. 

She had the vague notion that she would be greeted by Gods that had been conjured into existence by the sheer will of people in dire need of something greater to believe in than themselves. If those Gods still existed. 
    The stairs were beautiful, sprouted in small colorful flowers, and it was obvious that the staircase hadn’t been used for a very long time. She suspected it was time out of mind, time so great that she wouldn’t be able to understand the concept of it, like she didn’t understand the concept of black holes or dark matter. 

She had performed an old Viking ritual. A ritual she had been forced to guess into being, because it was barely documented. From the fragments she had been able to gather, with ten years of research and with several educated guesses filling in the gaps, she had performed a ritual. She had shuddered at the thought of what she needed to do, but she had little choice. She needed to find the staircase and the portal, she needed her name back, and this was the only way. She had tried everything else.

It had vanished one day, her name, almost as if she had lost her car keys or wallet. The difference was that the name she’d lost was irreplaceable, and that name seemed genuinely wiped from her mind. The doctors had called it a rare psychosis, but she knew better. It had been stolen from her and she was going to claim it back. 
    The portal of the Gods, that was the only way. 
    She had become an isolated maverick, because when you’re unable to react to people calling you, you become strange, and when people think you are strange… she shuddered at that thought too. 
    Now she did what she had to do. She would confront the jester who did this to her, she would reclaim her name, if it was the last thing she’d do. And if she had to defy a God that was, hopefully, already transparent at the edges because people didn’t believe in him anymore, then so be it.
    She started to climb the stairs. The backpack, that had followed her through the misty calm lands on her journey over the dark desert she had crossed to get to this spot, she left at the bottom of the stairs. There was nothing in it she would need after this. She would have to play it by ear from here, there were no documents, no tales, not the faintest trace of information about what she would actually face once she had climbed the stairs of the Gods. 
    The flowers were beautiful though, the tiny, lovely knobs, a perennial beauty that no one ever got to witness, except for her now. She started up the stairs, her white tennis shoes in strange contrast to the greenery and she felt she needed to carefully plot her way up the stairs as not to disturb the terrestrial beauty in this unearthly place. It took her a long time to climb and when she was high enough that she might start to see what was actually at the top of the stairs she focused on the flowers below her feet. Yellow, red, white and green in a transmutable visual song, song that could only be sung by artists in close touch with the other worldly. 

When the last step was in front of her she stubbornly stared down. Almost regretting her decision to come here, almost regretting the journey. But she faced the horrors that came with her namelessness, horrors that followed losing the identity within yourself so completely, and she saw no other means but death if she would fail. And she would be damned if she would die without trying everything else first. 

But now that she was at the end of the stairs, in the garden of the old Gods, she hesitated. Was it really so bad, being nameless? Was it so bad that she dared face whatever was behind whatever portal might be up there? 

She didn’t dare to answer the question. Instead she raised her head and took the last step up. Suddenly the sun was shining in her face. She was on a plain so green, she had never seen anything like it. The flowers were there too, small colorful knobs sprouting everywhere. It was such a beautiful sight that it took her breath away and all she could do was stand there and stare. The empty blue sky, a sky that had been dark, black as the night, on her way over the desert. For days she had seen nothing but the starless darkness. It made this sight even more spectacular. 
    Then she noticed the portal. It was an oval shape, a whirl of colors, something she imagined people only conjured up in a drugged haze. She walked towards it, the strange sound emanating from the portal reminded her of the sound the modems used to make, back in the days when she still had a name. 
    She lifted her hand, hesitated, but then pushed her forefinger into the whirlwind of colors. It felt cold, but not freezing. 

She took a deep breath and then she walked through the portal. 
    
At first she thought she would die. The portal drew her in with such force and violence, she had never experienced anything like it. Then she circled through a never ending space, a whirl of colors and hues surrounding her and she never knew what was up or down. When the whirlwind spat her out on the other side of the portal she landed softly, but naked, in a field of green grass. There where mountains all around her, higher than she’d ever seen before. The snow in the peaks intrigued her. 
    What was this place? 
    She looked around, but there was nothing there. Nothing but the beauty of nature, the likes of which she had never seen before. Her nakedness bothered her for a while, but she wasn’t there to be taken a back by something as human and stupid as modesty. So for a while she stood still, trying to figure out what her next step was. She had only thought about getting to the portal, the gate was her final point, now she had no idea what to do.
    Then it came to her. She would call his name. What irony was bigger than to conjure up the jester by his name? She only wished she could do to him what he had done to her.
    So she stood there, arms in the air, moving in circles and she yelled his name from the top of her lungs. 
    “LOKI,” she yelled. 
    When nothing happened she sank down into the grass and cried. She had been so sure, now it looked like all the old Gods had vanished, ceased to exist since the people no longer believed in them. And then where did she stand? Maybe she was insane. Maybe it was all some strange psychosis she was going through and the ten year journey she was on was nothing but a fools errand. 
    But she’d seen the stairs with her own eyes, the steps that impossibly sprang out of the dark desert sand, flowers and all, and she had seen the colors in the portal, nothing could be as real as that portal.
    When she stood up she was determined, and it occurred to her only afterwards that it was that determination that conjured the jester into being. Suddenly he was standing before her, larger than life, beautiful in a special way and the grin on his face was impossible to resist.
    He cocked his head and laughed. 
    “So, you did manage,” he said after a while. “I didn’t think you would, they never do these days, it’s so much harder now I guess”. 
    She was speechless. There he was, the conjurer, the jester, the wicked one and she had no idea what to say to him. 
    “You’re naked,” he said when the silence had become unbearable and she smiled. It was a smile that melted her innards and she was able to move again. 
    She was still dumbfounded though, “you’re not transparent at the edges,” she whispered. She looked at him. “You know what, I don’t care,” she said. “I’m here to confront you, either you give back what belongs to me or you strike me down right here,” she blurted out. 
    “My, my,” he said and walked in a circle around her. “Aren’t we a hot-head. You know you look much better than the vixen I had my three bastards with, I should have done like the others and gone down there instead of seeking out the Giants of my kind,” he laughed a little half heartedly. 
    “I want my name back, Loki,” she said, making a point of saying his name. 
    “I know you do, …” she was sure he said her name, who would know that name better than the one who stole it from her. He made a gesture with his hand and suddenly he was carrying a heavy fur coat, without a word he handed it to her and she swept it around herself. She wasn’t cold, but at least she wouldn’t have to stand there and confront him in her nakedness anymore. 
    “You know, …” and again she was sure he said her name, though she couldn’t hear it, always as if the word didn’t register in her mind. As if the world was censoring her name away, making sure she didn’t quite exist. “We are fading into non-existence, there is little left of us but the occasional sneeze,” he said. “Our world is crumbling down and all that remains is the occasional remnant,” he put his finger underneath her chin, she noticed that his fingernails were long and clean. “All we have left are a few people like you, desperate enough to seek consolation in us. We are your last straw.” 
    “No,” she said sternly, “You were the culprit, the only one I could possibly blame,” her words ebbed out.
    “And how could you possibly know that?” he asked, grinning.
    “I do, because I heard the words when you took my name, I heard the words…” she swallowed hard. 
    “Delicate creature you are,” he said, “very well, you want it back? I’ll give it back to you. I guess my goal is reached anyway.”
    “Why?” she asked, “why me?” 
    “Because while other people might blame their weak minds, or psychological traumas, you were strong enough to seek the truth, in the face of the greatest obstacle there is.”
    “And what’s that?” 
    “Forgetfulness,” he whispered the word, as if it was a curse word and he didn’t want to be caught saying it. He swept his long blond hair away from his eyes and turned around. He walked a few steps and then he faced her again.
    “We are Gods without followers, and Gods without followers vanish into thin air, their greatness, whatever it was, becomes nothing more than a funny story people tell their kids as a joke. Our power came from the belief, from the hopes and wishes of those who sought our guidance, now we are nothing more than a side story and soon we’ll be gone.”
    “And so you steal people’s names? What? To get revenge on those who don’t believe anymore?” 
    “Quite the contrary, my dear,” he said smiling. “I do it because in facing me, you will have little choice but to believe in me.”
    “I will never worship someone like you,” she said quickly. 
    “It doesn’t matter,” he whispered. He leaned forward and kissed her cheek softly. “You are a true valkyrja,” he said. “An energetic woman, a true viking, if I ever met one.”
    “I will never worship you,” she said again.
    “It doesn’t matter, because you will speak of me. And you will share your story, however absurd it may sound to the modern man, and a few will listen and even if you will never worship then at least the word will get around. Or that’s the theory. You aren’t the first one, but you are the first who managed to find me and face me.” 
    He took her face with both his hands and looked into her eyes. 
    “I return what I have stolen, Saga,” he said. “May you remember it, and use it well”. 
    
 It was like having a stone removed from her chest, hearing her name. It was as if the wind suddenly caressed her cheeks and her eyes suddenly saw a world full of life and magic. It was like regaining a soul, after having sold it to the devil. 

He left her with a soft kiss on her lips. A stolen kiss, but what he had returned was ever so valuable and in returning it he had given her a gift as well. 
    She could see the worlds that belonged to him and his fellows. She could see the world that would vanish if those Gods did and she could hear the promises given, not only by him, but by his kin. They were bold promises, but she was just one woman.
    And suddenly she was at the top of the stairs again. Staring down the flowery path, overlooking the hazardous dark desert she would now have to cross again. She saw her backpack lying on the ground and knew that she had brought no provisions for the journey home. 
    But she had what she came for and she had something else too, a promise of a lifetime of remembrance, to be greatly rewarded. All ideas of revenge had vanished from her mind. 
    “My name is Saga,” she tested and when she heard herself say the word she fell to the ground and cried. “I am with name,” she whispered, “And I will remember you Loki, though I will never worship you.” 
    And she thought she felt a warm breeze playing with her cheek, and maybe she heard the echoes of laughter as she descended the stairs, ever so carefully not to disturb the flowers. 

Spark by mms

Copyright © Eygló 2015

Pareidolia

By Chaz Brenchley

This perished ground has long forgotten rain.
The petrichor is buried deep,
So deep we would need storms and floods to find it.

You point at a cloud and say bear
Or was it hare or here? Were?
The were-cloud encompasses the lot.
Each shapeless shifty thing becomes a metaphor
For mind, for mindfulness,
For change and time and art and words and us.

Forgotten rains seep out of sodden turf
Beneath a sky that’s clearing.
Whatever words we use, the storm’s the same:
Portentous, overbearing, long-delayed.

Never mind that rising smell; we’ll say it’s drains,
Or damp. Decay is universal.
Point at clouds. Say things.
Before we’ve all forgotten how to speak.

Spark by Paula Grainger

Copyright © Chaz Brenchley 2016

Goodnight, My Friend

by Kate Chandler

It started with a whimper. I had left my late shift at the hospital and was walking briskly through a dark, cold and blustery November night towards the bus stop, so bundled up in my coat and thoughts that I am surprised that I heard anything at all. But hear it I did, and as I stopped in my tracks to cock my head and listen more intently, there was a second whimper - a little louder this time -  accompanied by a shuffling sound. I turned my head towards the sound and saw a small square cardboard box on the side of the pavement, partially hidden by an overgrown hedge.

It was shaking.

I quickly looked at my watch and saw that I had plenty of time until my bus was due, and so I approached the box and cagily lifted it up from the ground. I don’t know what I was expecting to find underneath it - a puppy or something, I guess. When I saw what it actually was, I immediately dropped the box back down to the ground and jumped backwards.

You didn’t like that at all. You cried, in fact - a long wail that sent a shudder right through me, but that left me feeling rather more empathetic and less revulsed than I had been just a few seconds before. I stood there looking at the quivering box, heart hammering in my chest, wondering what to do. All I knew was that I couldn’t leave you, that because I’d found you a duty of care was now upon me. I knew I couldn’t provide a home for you myself, but that it was my obligation to find somewhere permanent for you to stay.

I went back over to you and lifted up the box. You looked at me. I looked at you. You tried to smile but it came off more of a grimace. I could tell you were pleading with me not to leave you there all alone. I smiled at you, picked you up, placed you gently in the box, closed the lid and wrapped you up warm inside my coat. The bus arrived a couple of minutes after we reached the bus stop, and once I’d boarded it and had settled down in a window seat next to a heater for the forty-minute ride home, I heard you sigh in contentment, and felt the sense of calm as it washed over you.

When we reached home, I lit a fire in my little wood-burning stove, found a large clear tupperware container in the kitchen and took you out of the cardboard box to place you in it. We sat together gazing at the fire for a little while as it burgeoned into life, until I noticed that you were thirsty and hungry. I couldn’t think what best to feed you. I placed small bowls of water and milk and gravy in the container with you but you hardly touched any of them. Then I tried you with a small piece of tuna and a few beans. You seemed more interested in those but not nearly enough, and made it clear to me that you needed a specific kind of nutrition. I dutifully pricked my finger with a pin and transferred a few drops of my blood into your water dish. You lapped it all up then sat back, seemingly satisfied.

I transferred you to a large mason jar and you slept in my bed with me that night, me curling around you like a cat protecting her kitten. Despite the cold glass divide it felt cozy to lay with you that way, and I felt more content and at ease than I had done for a very long time.

Still, I knew you couldn’t stay. I had to find you a home of your own and I had to do it quickly.

The next day, after an early breakfast, we got straight out onto the streets in order to find a suitable candidate. As we walked around town you slowly started to let me in on what had happened between you and your previous owner. You told of how you had been cruelly and relentlessly attacked by several of your own kind; how your owner - alongside you - had felt each and every blow that they had dealt you and, at his wit’s end after several years of suffering, had finally decided that the only way he could save himself was to abandon you; how, even though you had been the one abandoned, you couldn’t stop worrying over how he was now coping without you, his best friend, his cheerleader and confidant.

I might have cried for your pain, had I not been concentrating so hard on ending it. Your story just made me all the more resolved to find you a new home and a fresh start as soon as I possibly could.

The task took longer than I had anticipated. We crossed back and forth across the entire town, through main streets and back alleys, looking for the right person. We sat on the steps of the art gallery and watched people milling around in the crowd, picking out potential suitors, then approaching them and engaging them in conversation. We sat on park benches next to lonely souls in need of company. We scouted coffee shops and bars and ice-cream parlours for that certain someone. Not one of them satisfied your requirements. You wouldn’t let just anyone provide you with a home and call you their own - you were looking for some quality in particular. You assured me that you’d know the right person as soon as we were in their presence, so we kept on trudging the streets until it was dark again.

We found George at around 4.50 p.m., standing atop the wall of a railway bridge, swaying alarmingly close to the wrong side of the edge. I approached him slowly, cautiously, vocally making him aware that I was there so that I didn’t startle him into any sudden movements. He didn’t turn around to look at me.

“Leave me alone,” he said, just before I reached the wall, “You can’t stop me from doing this.”

“I understand,” I said, letting you prompt my words, “But fate has led us here to be in each other’s lives at this very moment, and I just can’t allow you to do what you want to do in my presence.”

“Then go. Leave me to it.”

Unperturbed, I walked right up to him. Up close, his clothes stank of spilled liquor and stale tobacco.

“I’m sorry, I can’t. Not without hearing your story at least. If I’m to be the last person on earth who sees you, I need to bear witness to who you are, why you’re doing this. Please talk to me, for my sake if not your own.”

He turned around and raised his eyebrows, evidently surprised by my words, and nearly lost his balance as he did so. Much to my heart’s relief, he recovered and turned back towards the steep drop the other side of us, and the railway tracks below.

“Okay,” he said. I thought I heard a hint of mild amusement in his voice.

He told me about his young wife, how he had married her out of graduate school and how they had been set to travel around the world to find their fortune until she had fallen pregnant and given birth to their daughter; how his daughter’s birth had changed his outlook on life, shown him just what sort of treasure could be had right at home without needing to travel to distant shores; how he had changed his plans to become some big-shot animator in L.A. or New York, and happily settled instead for animating low-budget films at a small local company that had felt like family.

He told me how he felt that his appreciation for this change in destiny had seemed to anger, rather than please, the gods; how three years beforehand, a car waiting to turn at a crossroads had been hit by a truck coming the other way and been shunted right across the street into the crosswalk just as his wife was crossing with his daughter in her stroller; how his daughter had been killed instantly and his wife had died some months later after a long battle with her injuries; how he had slowly fallen apart afterwards, drinking too much, picking fights with everyone who ever cared about him, until he lost his job, and then his friends, and then eventually even isolated himself from his remaining family; how he had spent the last year surviving on a cocktail of drink, drugs and sleep in an effort to blot out all consciousness, until he had finally realised that there was no hope left for him, and no use carrying on without it.

It broke my heart to listen to him tell his story, but you - I could feel you gaining energy. The force of compassion you were sending out filled my heart with an overwhelming sense of peace, so that I looked at this man not with pity, but with utter love. When he had finished talking, I touched his trouser leg. He looked down at me, his face cold and stern, but what he saw in my eyes got through to him and his expression immediately softened.

“I want to show you something,” I said to him. “Will you come down and look at what I have in this box? I promise you, once you have done so, I will walk away and leave you to it, if that is still what you want.”

I didn’t see why he would trust me with that promise, but he looked at his watch, noted aloud that the train wouldn’t be coming along for another five minutes anyway, and agreed to hop down and see what was in my silly box while he waited. He was a big man. I guess he figured that there was no way I, with my slight frame, would be able to stop him from climbing back up onto the wall afterwards and doing what he felt he had to do.

I passed him the box. He opened it. At first he turned his face away, but the strength of feeling you sent out immediately made him look back at you. Tears sprang up in his eyes, and a look of awed peace washed over his face, dropping five years of anguish from his features and posture. He smiled. A lovely, beatific smile.

“You want it?” I asked.

He looked up. “You’d give it to me?” he asked, astonished.

“I’ve got one of my own. This one wants to be with you - can’t you feel it?”

“Hell yes, I can.”  He giggled, unexpectedly and quite charmingly.

“Then, if you trust me, you’d better come with me now. We haven’t got a lot of time - it can’t survive much longer out of a body. I have a good friend, Drew, who used to be a surgeon but was recently struck off - don’t ask why, it was illegal, but nothing major - and he owes me several huge favours. I’ll call him over, we’ll get this thing into you.”

I stopped talking while the commuter train passed at full speed through the tunnel below us. He watched it go by with an almost maniacal expression on his face. He looked back into the box. He shook his head in disbelief and then looked at me sidelong, evidently trying to judge the amount of crazy that was hiding behind my pretty, young face.

“What the hell,” he said, “I’m supposed to be dead at this minute, what’s a little heart surgery going to hurt?”

 

 

George scrubbed up pretty well once he’d recovered from the operation. I found that I couldn’t bring myself to kick him - and you - out of the house afterwards. I’d got so used to having you around by then, and you make me feel alive like nothing else has in my life.

You and George have proved to be as good a match for each other as you’d thought. He is slowly getting back to his craft and looking for new work, and though he still has plenty of dark moments, and still drinks too much to try to block them out, it is obvious how much your presence calms him and brings him hope. Those beatific smiles of his are much more frequent these days and just as lovely, and the feeling of being charmed that I experienced in that first giggle I heard from him was not inconsequential. Now, when I curl around you at night like a cat protecting her kitten, it is not the cold glass of a mason jar that divides us, but the warm, strong body of a man who I think I am starting to fall in love with.

I can’t say what the future holds for any of us, but I promise you that I will never intentionally cause you pain, and will always protect you from any cruel attacks delivered by your own kind. And whatever George does, and wherever he takes you, I shall never abandon you.

Goodnight, my friend. Sweet dreams.

 

Spark by Eyglo

Spark by Eyglo

GOODNIGHT, MY FRIEND copyright © Kate Chandler 2015

The Road

by Eygló

The mountains are dark,
the peaks smooth and impossible,
obsidian. 

They surround me on my journey,
I see rivers, 
and floods,
and the waves of an ocean crashing violently on the shore,
colliding with the rocks
and my conscious mind.

The desert is dark,
the sand smooth and warm and black.
I watch the icebergs floating in the lake,
small flowers in the myst. 

And I see you suddenly,
standing on the other side of the lake,
you smile,
forever that smile. 

The howls come from all around us,
these unknown screams
of monsters prowling the earth,
or just birds in distress. 

I look away,
I can see your agony,
but there is no way to cross this body of water
and now I can’t remember why I stopped.

I should be on my way,
I should be on the road. 

 

Music spark by Michael Marshall Smith

How Could She Have Known

by Joseph Robertshaw

“Halloween is not until tomorrow anyway” she said, to the small grove near her family’s home. She looked at the neat spidery handwriting of the journal again. Yes, she thought. I read it right. The spell specifically said that it could only be cast once per year and on Halloween. That is what it said, but the light that had begun to consume the entire wood now didn’t seem to care about that condition. She reached into her blouse for her cell phone. Anne Dee pulled it out and nervously made the gesture to unlock the screen. The clock said 12:03 am.

“Oh shit,” she said, as she as she looked back from the phone to the book to the slowly brightening light that almost cast the house in daylight. Suddenly she knew what she should do.

Anne Dee tucked the phone away — even though every time she did this she remembered the Dateline special about cell phones and breast cancer. She found the page in the book with the spell she had activated. Only moments ago she had thought that this book was just another relic of fakery that her family had kept in the attic, along with the collection of lava lamps and disco lights, the box of D&D stuff that no one used anymore and the holiday decorations that came out once a year for a month and lay hidden for the other eleven.

The page was entitled “The Opening”. As she read the effects for the first time her eyes grew wider, along with the burgeoning swell of undulating light that now pulsed in the side yard with no center and no sign of slowing anytime soon. It was a spell to release all of the gnomes, sprites, brownies and other fairy folk that were banished during the previous year. It would take fifteen minutes for the gate to reach the opening stage and she would have to say the key word, Kom en zie, at that point to actually open the gate.

That didn’t sound so bad. She could just wait and watch and use the spell on the next page called “Ausblenden” to close the thing before it got activated. It would only be a few moments more and who would know?

Moments passed and finally the tiny screen flashed 12:15. The tiny creatures had been visible now for several minutes bumping, and pushing one another and leaning on the force of the gateway, like Anne Dee might have leaned on a storefront window waiting for her mother to emerge on a boring Saturday afternoon. The pressure had become immense now though as the creatures started fights and pressed in from all sides. Some simply clawed at the bubble of light with bestial appendages. These things didn’t much look like the ones in the Disney tales or the Fairy Tale books at the school library. Some were downright nasty looking. When one of the meaner looking creatures grabbed another who looked more or less harmless and ripped it in half, Ann Dee decided that it was time to close this thing down.

She reached the page again and raised the book up to see the words in the light when a noise came from the door to the house. Ann Dee spun to meet the sound.

It was her mother dressed in a night gown and fuzzy slippers. Ann Dee noticed that her mother didn’t appear to even notice the blinding light coming from the gateway.

“Du Morrow iz Halloveen AnnDee” said her mother in her best stylized Dracula voice. “You zhould come in zide.”

The wall of sound was deafening. Ann Dee, now facing the house, watched her mother cower in terror from the explosion of light and noise that erupted over her daughter’s shoulder.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Copyright © Joseph Robertshaw 2015

Not The Only Ones

Daniel Richter-Martin

There are men who can't sleep when the moon is full. Most of them don't know why. I do. And I wish, more than anything, that I didn't.

The wolves are not the only ones who are cursed.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Seafood and Cocktails

by Eygló

He was wearing checkered shorts when I saw him. They were a bit small and the color red was dominant. He looked uncomfortable in them and despite my state of mind my first thought was: what on earth is the man wearing? He had a long, dark thatch for hair and penetrating, grey eyes. 
    I just wanted to find a place where I could get a stiff drink and some calm. I ordered a Negroni and the man in the checkered shorts raised an eyebrow.     
    I sat by the window and watched the people walk by on the pier and I watched the way the streetlights reflected in the water. 
    I was in a state of shock. Firing a gun can do that to the best of us, and I guess I looked worn down and pathetic, because when I had finished my drink, he came to me wearing his flashy shorts, holding a very bright looking cocktail. He handed me the drink, cocked his head a little to the right, his long hair falling a little over to the side, and he told me it was on the house. 
    I looked at him and I guess the shocked expression amused him, because a soft smile broke out on his face. 
    It was like someone lit a light in a ghost house and suddenly I saw him differently. He was not the strange, hostile old geezer I had initially taken him for, but a rather good looking guy. Perspective is a beautiful thing. 
    I thanked him for the drink and asked if he wanted to join me. He nodded his head, went back behind the counter, shouted something to someone in the back and then came and sat down beside me with a beer in his hand. 
    I sipped the cocktail. It tasted of happiness and colorful adventures. He pulled at the leg of his shorts so they wouldn’t ride his crouch and adjusted himself in the chair. 
    It was a bit comical. I asked him what the cocktail was called and he smiled, showing glimmering white teeth, and he said it was his speciality, that he made it only once in a blue moon, and that he called it The Trouble Breaker. 
    “It’s not going to get you so drunk that you lose control,” he told me. “It will however take away your troubles, and you look like you need it”.
    I didn’t tell him my troubles. I didn’t tell him that I had just shot a gun for the first time in my life, and that the bullet that flew out of the gun had hit someone. I didn’t tell him that moments before that happened, the man had been raping me. I didn’t tell him, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do so without crying. 
    And I didn’t want to cry. Because I didn’t know if the man I shot was dead or alive. I didn’t tell him because I could still feel the man’s filthy hands on my breasts, on my thighs and I could still feel his body on top of mine, in mine. 
    I didn’t tell him because I could still hear the thud as the man hit the floor. 
    I didn’t tell him because I feared that the incident had made me a killer, and that wasn't something I was prepared to be. 
    “Do you come here often?” he asked. 
    I just shook my head. 
    “No,” he said, “you don’t look it”. 
    I took another sip of the drink and felt it warm my innards. It was a nice feeling.
    “Have you worked here long?” I asked him in turn. I wanted to talk about something normal, something you would do any day, at the pub, after work. 
    He nodded. “I own the joint. It’s my own private hell,” he said. 
    “It seems like a nice place,” I said. 
    “It serves its purpose,” he grinned. 
I remember wondering why there weren’t more people in there. It was a nice place by the pier, the service was good and the prices weren’t too steep. It made little sense, but I figured it was just one of those days.
    “Are you going to visit again?” 
I noticed he had a serene expression on his face when he asked this. I didn’t want to tell him that I probably wouldn’t, that it would only remind me of the horrible things that had happened that night, things I really didn’t want to be reminded of.
    I just shrugged and told him I was just passing by. It was as neutral an answer as I could give, but it seemed to sooth him. He patted my shoulder and started talking. 
    He told me that he had been a sailor, and that he therefore liked to have a view over the sea. He told me that he had a kid in Singapore, with a woman who never wanted to speak to him again, and a sister in Italy who thought he was dead. 
    “She may be right too,” he said, grinning. 
    I listened to him talk, not offering much information about myself, and he noticed because when he had spoken for a while, he went quiet and then he asked me what had happened to me, in a hushed voice. 
    I turned towards him and got a little lost in his dark eyes. I don’t know what came over me, but suddenly I leaned over and I kissed him. 
It was a soft, slow kiss, nothing extravagant or passionate, but it was quiet and it was nice. Perhaps the nicest kiss I’ve ever had. He tasted of seafood.
    And he did kiss me back.
    When I withdrew he asked why I had done that. I shrugged and told him I did it because I wanted to and because he let me. He seemed to buy that. He nodded his head slowly and tasted his beer. 
    And it was the truth. I just didn’t add that knowing that the other man had been the last one to kiss me would eventually kill me, and so inadvertently the man in the checkered shorts saved my life.
    “Are you going to tell me what happened?” he asked.
    I didn’t look at him this time. I just shook my head.
    I could see his image reflecting in the window and the sign above the bar. There was something wicked in his eyes I hadn’t noticed before. 
    “Are you sure you’re not coming back?”
    “Does it matter?” 
    “Well,” he said and leaned back a little on his stool, folding his arms. Then he pulled at his shorts, the best he could, and cleared his throat. “It’s not that business is dying down or anything,” he said, “most people come in a bit later in the evening,” he grinned. 
    “I can see why one would come here often,” I told him. 
    He grunted, but he said nothing. 
    When I had finished my drink I stood up. I asked if I shouldn’t pay for the cocktail but he shook his head. 
    “First timers get one for free, and all your troubles go away,” he smiled. “The second time won’t be that easy,” he added.
    I left there feeling better than when I came in. I gave him a glance as I stood by the door. He was cleaning the counter with a red rag. I told him I might be back someday. 
    He just nodded and continued doing his job. 
    He was different when I left. He had put his hair in a pony tail in the back which made him look a bit like a muffled biker. I almost expected the shorts to have magically transformed into jeans, although I’m sure they hadn’t.
    He looked my way and smiled and for a moment I thought he was going to say something, but he didn’t. He just waved a hand and went on with his business, and I went on with mine. 
    For what it’s worth my troubles didn’t all go away. Life doesn’t work like that, but the repercussions from what happened that day were a lot less shattering that I had expected. 
    It’s almost as if I got a get out of jail free card. 

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Eygló was born and bred in Kópavogur, Iceland. She studied literary theory at the University of Iceland before moving to the south of Sweden where she is playing house, taking pictures, writing, reading, running and living, when there is time. She never grew up enough to start drinking coffee, but she does know how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull and how to do a fishtail braid. Instagram and Site.

SEAFOOD AND COCKTAILS is copyright © Eygló 2015

Run

Robin Wyatt Dunn

running into the black lagoon
running to be right next to you
in your dark arms
in your dark waves
beneath the skein of stars bitter beautiful strewn over our dark:

let me hold the truth inside your dress
and I'll regress into the weight beneath your feet
the loom and loam and the wet black night

run me
run now
and now

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Copyright © Robin Wyatt Dunn 2015

Digging In

Benno Rice @jeamland

The rocks dug in. They would storm the other side at sunrise.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Bad Idea

@Neefsck

I told you turning that thing on was a bad idea, Now there's only three of us left, And I'm not even sure about Stewart there.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Sweet Futility

Joseph Robertshaw

Captured sidelong by the cusp of night I could see right away that the effort was futile. I wept for a while with the rising sun for, in the deepening blackness of this coming day, who would know? There was a certain freedom in the impending doom, a calm resolution that births confidence that can only come when we are sure, beyond any doubt, that this fate is ours, inescapable. It comes with the dawn, inexorable, like the march of the planets through the space time of the here and now, ever progressing, and yet, never moving in the mind’s eye, at that instant of epiphany caught in memory’s framed haze. Sweet futility provides me with her company as I turn my collar to the first of a million raindrops and slink back to the fire, and my book, as the steel grey sky silently swallows the sun.

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

Spark by Michael Marshall Smith

My name is Joseph Robertshaw. I like poetry and prose and try to write both. I was asked to leave my high school English class and my high school but all these years later, I have just written a fantasy book. I have dropped out of high school and have earned two master’s degrees. I have taught cooking, safety, customer service and now, for the past five years, First Year Composition. I am a husband and a father and, in my life, I have killed turkeys, cooked chickens, thrown crabs, siphoned salmon. I have been a stay at home navy spouse. I have sailed the Bering Sea and rolled through Europe on the rails. I currently live in Ohio and I expect to earn a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing in 2018. 

Sweet Futlity is Copyright © Joseph Robertshaw 2015

The Bridge

by Eygló


“I’ll be forty-two tomorrow” she told herself out loud and sighed, “again”. It felt daunting, like walking through a dark forest all alone at night without a flashlight or the moon to guide her. She took a sip of her tea, it was bitter and she didn’t like it, but it was one of her new habits, a thing she’d taken up during one of her health initiatives. That too felt daunting, and the initiatives rarely stuck, but the tea had. She had a small, rose patterned cup and a small silver spoon she’d inherited from her grandmother and although she didn’t like the tea she liked what it reminded her of. 

Old times and things past, things future, the bridge and the eventual changes she’d manage to conjure up. 

She sighed again and stirred, then she lay the silver spoon on the saucer, took another sip and then gave up on it. The memories haunted her, childhood laughters, her grandmother’s warning words and the loving gaze of someone long lost. The memories were so far away now that it felt almost like they didn’t belong to her at all anymore, were just lurking in her brain like that scene from a movie she saw long time ago and liked.

She put the cup, half full, in the sink, put on her shoes and a jacket, then she headed out the door with her phone in one pocket and the keys in the other and said goodbye to no one in particular. Hoping today would be the day. 

She headed into the park, walking slow steps towards the duckpond which was surrounded by a cluster of big pines, the cones were hanging high above, big and spectacular and she found herself wondering what it would be like to get one of those cones in the head as it fell towards the ground. They were as big as her fist.

When she came to the clearing she noticed. The duckpond was small, as always, but now there was a bridge crossing over to the shadier side, where there had been none before. It looked old, made of stacked stones and dirt. Something was different. She couldn’t quite place what it was, but there was a feeling of quiet calm surrounding the place. The last time it had bridged a small creek a long way from where she was now. There was no doubt in her mind that it was the same bridge though, she recognised the stones and the bowline structure. She recognised the sizzling sound surrounding it, and the ancient quality. 

She walked up to the bridge, but hesitated. Did she dare to cross it one more time? Was the risk worth the eventual payoff? She might be lonely now, but there were worse things.

She touched the rough stone of the heavy rock railing and felt a surge of strangeness go through her, as if she was standing in a timeless void and was suddenly more than she had been before, more than the sum of all her previous choices. She felt she had become the potential of everything she could ever have been. She threw her head backwards and laughed, the joy enveloped her completely and overshadowed the anxious whispers deep inside her. 

She started walking over the bridge, ever so slowly she put one foot in front of the other and when she was halfway over she stopped and watched the ducks for a while. She came to think of Robert and how he had asked her to go with him. His kind smile and the roughness of his hands. She hadn’t thought of him much in over fifteen years, it was as if the memory of him had faded, only to come back with the heaviness of something you once lost. How would her life have turned out if she had said yes, married him and moved  away with him? What would she be like? Would she like herself more? 

When she got over to the other side she looked back. Something was lying on the ground beside the stones. At first it looked like a skull, the skull of the woman she had been a moment ago, she thought, but it was just a tree stump and an overgrown stone. 

She felt lighter on her feet as she headed home. Something was different although she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was. Perhaps it was the weather, the clouds were traveling the sky, making it dark and bright in turn and the memory of the bridge faded quickly, but didn’t quite vanish. 

•••

He woke her up with scones, a single red rose in a small vase, a small present wrapped in pretty blue paper and a card. She smiled at him, kissed him lightly on the mouth, the smell of him felt a bit strange today, as if it was unfamiliar and yet she’d been smelling this man every single day for over fifteen years, hadn’t she? A memory came over her, a feeling of solidarity that she had longed for once upon a time, but that had turned into a dark, anxious pit in her mind. 

“We’re going to the park.” he said, “You can paint something, if you feel like it,” he told her. “Open the present.”

Inside was a small silver necklace, a simple infinity symbol. He helped her put it on and she knew he recognised the joy in her smile. They drank tea in her rose cups as they ate the scones and she stirred with her silver spoon and thought of how she used to walk alone through the forest to her grandmother and how her grandmother always told her not to cross the old stone bridge. She had always been fond of that bridge. And she didn’t regret crossing it that time. 

They walked to the park, so she could paint and he could read underneath a tree. The perfect Sunday outing, she thought.  

“Did you really like your present, no faking?” he asked her. She nodded her head, put the brush down and lay down beside him. 

“I loved it, no faking,” she said, and it was the truth. 

She painted the bridge that day and found herself wondering if she would ever walk it again. Doubtful, she thought. It was time to settle, and she was terrified that next time the bridge would reject her somehow, she wasn’t afraid the stones were going to crumble underneath her feet, but worried that everything else around her might. She also feared that the old feeling would return, the feeling of restlessness, discontent. She would have to fight it with everything she had. 

“Is the book any good?” she asked and picked the brush up again.

“It’s not bad” he said, “not life-changing though”.

“Those come by so rarely,” she whispered. 

“What did you say?” he asked, turning a page. 

“Nothing.” she smiled. “Let’s have salmon for dinner, shall we?”

He didn’t answer, was deep in his book and she didn’t mind, she needed to capture the bridge perfectly. She didn’t know quite why, but she felt it was essential, like painting the picture would freeze the moment and let her be happy forever. 

But of course forever is a very long time and the magic of her brush was small in comparison with the eternity she faced, and all the versions of the bridge she would have to walk in the future. Hopefully the magic of her brush would prolong the moment somewhat, let her linger where she wasn’t lonely.  
 

Spark by Bryan DeLae

Spark by Bryan DeLae

Eygló was born and bred in Kópavogur, Iceland. She studied literary theory at the University of Iceland before moving to the south of Sweden where she is playing house, taking pictures, writing, reading, running and living, when there is time. She never grew up enough to start drinking coffee, but she does know how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull and how to do a fishtail braid. Instagram and Site.

THE BRIDGE is copyright © Eygló 2015